Monday, December 15, 2008

Minister of Culture – December 26, 2008

Frank Zappa and Vaclav Havel

It isn't exactly news that Europe is more culturally advanced than the U.S., but only by a few thousand years or so. Sure, America came up up with Frank Zappa, but during his life, Frank's genius was always better recognized "over there" than here. First, them Europes don't worry so much about certain artistic elements that tend to get us Mercans all jibbered up, like naughty words and nudity.

Apart from his musical sophistication, Frank's iconoclasm was well appreciated in Eastern Europe, which had an ill-fitting communist overlay in the decades after WWII. In Czechoslovakia, Frank and his music became a symbol of independence. In the liberation period, they ecen wanted to make him Minister of Culture. Some details are here, plus there's a dated but fairly good write-up here.

Back when I was doing Zappa's Grubby Chamber regularly, I ran into KHSU's Dan Wargo, who had firsthand knowledge of this. He offered to tell me and the listeners about it, but my hostiness of the show ended before I was able to talk to him. But since I'm sitting in, I rang him up and recorded a short interview, which I'll run during the Dec. 26 show.

Also, I'm headed down to the Bay Area next week for the Zappa Plays Zappa show at the War Memorial Opera House. If anyone attended the recent ZPZ Roxy shows or has any other inkling of what to expect on New Year's Eve, do feel free to call in.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bryan Beller's Coughing – October 10, 2008

For my smash-flop return to KHUM's airwaves, I've been debating how to start the show. Sure, if tradition holds it will begin with some missed cue or blown segue, but apart from that.

So I settled on a live tune that includes a number of the elements we adore Frank for – musical mischief, impossible licks, a sprinkle of tinkertoy and great guitar playing. Which is it? Tune in at 10 p.m. this Friday, or online at at and find out.

Thanks to Scatch for asking me to sit in during his absence. While driving 54 miles every Friday night was more than I could sustain, the occasional fill-in duty is more than do-able. Plus it will be ever so fun to play rope with Chas's canine-pard Luther before the show.

I sure hope I hear from some of my old Zappa's Grubby Chamber buddies – Matt, Julia, Bob, Ron, Dave and others who – I'm sorry – that I'm forgetting.

Apart from the Frank musicks, I have a few other special moments planned, and they mainly consist of non-Frank items that I know in my heart will appeal to Zappa fans. This is Radio Without The Rules, y'know. Besides, what're they gonna do, fire me?

That great South Dakotan Russ Stedman has a new album out tittled Fear of a Podunk Planet, and it's marvy-poo. So I'll play a cut or two off that for you, the Zappa fans who I know will appreciate it. And have you listened to the latest Ween album, La Cucaracha? No? No worries, I gotcha covered... with my own bare hands.

But the main extracurricular event will be my interview with Bryan Beller. His new album, Thanks In Advance, has a lot of appeal to my Zappa-ingrained sensibilities, and so can you be too – fact of the matter, it's made for you.

That's Bryan back in the 1990s during one of his visits to Arcata. He played at the old Jambalaya Club with Beer For Dolphins and a certain Mr. Keneally, and had ordered a samwich from Hole In The Wall deli earlier in the day. Bryan wails on the bass, he dials a phone... is there no limit to this man's versatility? Clearly, Beller is the bass player America needs to help us navigate these troubled times.

I recently interviewed Bryan on the phone about his new album, about being steeped in the Zappa musical milieu and various other matters. I'll run the interview during the second hour of the show.

So tune in and dig it, baby – Zen Through Zappa's Grubby Chamber is off the wall and on the air this Friday night!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Zen Through Zappa's Grubby Chamber – Oct. 10, 2008

Apparently there's been some sort of clerical error at KHUM and I'm slated to sit in for Scatch on the Zen Through Zappa show Oct. 10. Is this the return of Zappa's Grubby Chamber?

No. More like Zen Through Zappa's Grubby Chamber, special teenage Ferndale version.

It's a crazy idea, but it just might work. Developing...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Zen Through Zappa – August 1, 2008

Hello my dear friends and fans from Zappa's Grubby Chamber! Though March was a million years ago, you have all been in my frequent thoughts.

I sure do miss the show. I thought leaving it would give me all kinds of time back for my day job at the newspaper, but somehow it's still a mad scramble. Why's that?

Anyway, I come bearing glad tidings: There's a new Zappa show on KHUM starting this Friday night! It's called Zen Through Zappa. And our new best friend in Frankness is Mark Scatchard.

I talked to Mark today. He became a Zappa convert during a ninth grade class trip to Merrie Olde England. Someone bought a CD of Sheik Yerbouti, he popped it in his Discman and played the first song, "I Have Been In You," and his life changed.

Why? "To hear lyrics like that, and that guitar tone, and those chops..." Mark said. Oh, we understand, don't we?

His next purchase was one of the You Can't Do That On Stage Any More albums, and he couldn't handle it. "It was way too much for me," Mark said. "I wasn't ready for that."

So he traded it in for Roxy & Elsewhere and Make A Jazz Noise Here and found himself further Frankified. Today, he's another diehard.

He used to listen to Zappa's Grubby Chamber, but tuned in one Friday night after I ended the show and it wasn't there. He survived. But then next week, same thing. "I said, 'What the hell?!?'" he quipped.

So concerned citizen Mark Scatchard called KHUM expressing his dismay, and being the kind of station it is, they asked him if he wanted to do the show. So he decided to do just that.

Here's the psychedelic part: His bowling team is sponsoring the show.

Among Mark's FZ favorites are "Echidna's Arf (Of You)," "Pygmy Twylyte" and "The Black Page." Sounds to me like he thinks right.

Mark's a musician in his own right - a guitarist, so expect a lot of good, gutty guitar, at least at first. "I like the meat-and-potatoes guitar rock," he said.

Other musicians Mark likes are in the Frank range of quality guitaristics – Stevie Ray Vaughn and Steve Vai. Incredibly, he's not familiar with Mike Keneally, so wait'll he hears Boil That Dust Speck! Oh my.

He also likes early reggae, like Toots & the Maytalls, Black Uhuru and jammers like Phish. "My tastes are pretty broad," he said.

As he gets comfortable with running the studio board, he plans to focus initially on solid songs rather than the more abstruse exercises in conceptual continuity Frank's music makes possible.

"I'm kind of viewing this as a math class," Mark said. "You don't just jump in with derivatives in calculus. I'll start with basics - not necessarily radio friendly, but songs that will grab you right away, with good riffs and solid hooks."

So let's all send Mark our cosmic love pulse matrix good vibes and tune into Zen Through Zappa on KHUM this Friday night!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Let's Eat! (Updated) – March 22, 2008

This pic is of a window display at Music Millennium, an iconic music store in Portland, Oregon. Zappa's Grubby Chamber friend Mark Lovelace, who sent in the shot (thanks, Mark!) said they also had a large mural which reads "Keep Portland Weird!"

If anyone can do it, Frank can.

However, I can't. And as I mentioned last week, this is the last ZGC as we know it.

Update: Thanks, Barry, for helping tell the world of the show's demise. I guess I better try to do clean segues tonight in case people from Belgium are listening. BTW, if anyone wants to hear the groovy promo MP3 for tonight's show, write me at and I'll e-mail it to you.

For the final Zappa's Grubby Chamber, we're going to serve up and pound down a veritable feast of tasty Zappa tunes. I mean like, if we're going to sail off into the sunset and stuff, we might as well chow down on some yummy Frank music beforehand!

As with almost any topic, from soup to nuts, one finds a wealth of Frankly insight on the food situation. It may have been the most-often alluded to subject, next to matters of a horny nature and Republicans, which are often one and the same.

FZ songs that deal with food, or eating, or hunger, include "Uncle Meat," "The Dangerous Kitchen," "Cruising For Burgers," "Lumpy Gravy," "Electric Aunt Jemima," "Call Any Vegetable," "Eric Dolphy Memorial Barbecue," "Muffin Man," "The Duke of Prunes," "A Little Green Rosetta," "Marque-son's Chicken," "Chana In De Bushwop," "Any Kind of Pain" and others that you or I will think of between now and Friday.

I'm working on some possible telephone guests. They may or may not happen.

But it's a groovable feast on this, the last Zappa's Grubby Chamber.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Genius – March 14, 2008

People, I am leaving Zappa's Grubby Chamber – at least for now.

The reason is the physical toll on my chassis. As presently configured, doing the show requires driving to and fro in a 54-mile round-trip on a Friday eve/Saturday morn amid Taco Bell-engorged teens, Humboldt County weather and local California Highway Patrol officers on the make. Get the picture?

There's a loyal cadre of hardcore listeners, but as to any larger appeal, I just don't know. Is there any place for a dedicated Frank Zappa music show on FM radio any more? I'd like to think there is. I certainly have a ton of unexploited show themes.

But... with a few shows left to do, I plan to wind up with a flourish of genius. What songs best exemplify Frank Zappa at his most artful and clever?

To me, there are some clear best-of-the-best songs. "Echidna's Arf (Of You)," "Pygmy Twylyte," "Andy," "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats," and so many, many, more.

Genius Frank, on the next-to-last Zappa's Grubby Chamber.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

They Discussed the Weather – March 7, 2008

Frank always said his lyrics involved a measure of journalism. Through his songs, we got updates on a certain draft-dodging mountain, Eskimos with deflicted eyes, frogs with dirty little lips and other pressing matters of the day.

Plus, weather! Yes, Frank oftrn included weather reports in his music, these bearing on brown clouds, rainfall, weird and even scary winds and more.

For the March 7 Zappa's Grubby Chamber, we'll dwell on matters weatherly with songs like "Anyway the Wind Blows," "Teenage Wind," "Wild Love" and more.

You won't need a weatherman for the March 7 ZGC.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Laff Riot – February 29, 2008

That was a fun show last week. The bouncy-bouncy music really kept me moving, from song to bouncy song, doing the busy DJ thing.

Not much word from listeners though, other than the erstwhile Ron in Richmond. I’m going to assume that everyone was dancing on their coffee tables with lampshades on their heads to the jolly, jolly ever-so-jolly tuneage. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, if only for the visual.

This week, how about we dwell on the joy, the smiles... the laughter. Not Frank’s “comedy music” per se, but songs in which there is actual laughing. Where will that take us?

There are a lot of Zappa songs that include people laughing, sometimes a belly laugh, other times just a snicker or chortle. There’s a bunch on One Size Fits All, and on Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch, that crappy ’70s “laugh box” thing crops up on side two in several places.

What else? “The Blue Light,” “Jesus Thinks You’re A Jerk,” “Planet of the Baritone Women.” If I wanted to be lazy, and I might just, I could put on “Greggery Peccary,” then sit back and relax because of the part where Greggery greets the ladies in the steno pool. Or I could do the same with “Billy the Mountain,” because of Billy’s reaction to Studebaker Hawk trying to draft him into the armed forces.

There must be more, but I’m not cheating and looking at the discography. It’s all from scratch, with homemade ingredients, fresh from nature’s bounty, for you, the Zappa listener, because we at Zappa’s Grubby Chamber care enough to bring you the best, to help make your lifestyle a lifesmile.

Whatever. Does “Hoy Hoy Hoy” count?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bouncy, Bouncy... Bubbly? – February 22, 2008

Last week's Torpitidy Festival wasn't especially well received. Or maybe it was, the entropic spiral being so contagious that it immobilized everyone, preventing them from writing in or calling during the show.

Actually, one of the regulars (who shall go nameless because his girlfriend might find out) did call during the show and he definitely sounded sedated. But I don't think it was because of the music.

Anyway, I thought a good way to bounce back from all the slow songs on the last show would be to play lots of bouncy-jolly Frank songs this week. And once you start thinking about it, there's a lot of 'em!

"Wowie Zowie," "Wet T-Shirt Night," "Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead," "Rudy Wants To Buy Yez A Drink," "Pygmy Twylyte," "Cletus-Awreetus-Awrightus," "Camarillo Brillo," "Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance," and more that we'll no doubt get into on the show.

And while we're tapping our collective foot to all this bounciness, why not quaff the latest bubbly bev by our Friend in Frank, Tony Magee of Lagunitas Brewing Company. Tony's minions dropped off some Lumpy Gravy Ale at the studio, and somehow it ended up being consumed along with my birthday dinner. Yum.

Bouncy, Bouncy, Bubbly on the Feb. 22, 2008 Zappa's Grubby Chamber!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Too Adagio – February 15, 2008

The great thing about Frank's vast and eclectic repertoire is that you can pick any concept and find plenty of material – at least two hour's worth – to create a theme show.

So, this week, the secret word is Midwinter Torpor. We're all hunkered down under overcast skies, trying to keep from getting pelted by them raindrops, moving kinda slow... slow.

That's it! The mystery and enchantment of sheer s l o w n e s s.

I've noticed that in any given week, I usually have fairly firm ideas of what I'll probably play that fits with the theme. But sometimes, such as with last week's Sheer Elegance show, I end up not even playing the stuff I thought was key, like "Bolero." You just never know where the music (especially the requests, thank you) will take you.

Well, "Bolero" will fit in just right with the Slow theme, as will "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?" "I Have Been In You," "Sleep Dirt," "Hog Heaven" and many more.

We've got the s l o w w w w w w s on this week's Zappa's Grubby Chamber.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sheer Elegance – February 8, 2008

So much confusion surrounds Frank Zappa.

He didn't care. But I do!

I've spent my damn life proselytizing for Frank's genius. And at long last I've arrived in a place where I know I'm not alone in my appreciation for something so right. Matt, Bob, Ron, Julia, Dave, Russ, Gail, Barry, Ed and the literally several others who brighten my Friday nights during the show – thanks!

As I was saying... part of being a self-appointed Frank Zappa emissary to Earth is disabusing folks of their erroneous notions – sometimes willfully cultivated by Frank (thanks, Frank!) – about Frank and his music.

Perhaps the most overlooked aspect of his music is its sheer elegance. No one would argue that there's anything more exalted on the face of God's Great Earth than "Sofa" or "Regyptian Strut." But what about "Strictly Genteel" and "Bolero?"

Beyond the classical-esque tnes, there's the sheer elegance of "Zoot Allures" (I'm thinking of the DHBIM? version), "Evelyn, A Modified Dog" and the ultimate in majestic Frank music, "Watermelon In Easter Hay." And I'll use any excuse I can get to play "Drowning Witch."

So tune in for the eleganza extravaganza!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Then and Now – January 31, 2008

Residing in my happy rut of '70s/'80s Zappa music for so long before I started doing the show, I hadn't realized the intensity with which a substantial portion of the FZ community beholds Early Frank. So many of the requests are for '60s-era tunes, or what I think of as Frank's first drafts.

You know I love the versioning... You seem not to mind, either. Hey, as long as it's Frank music, what could go wrong?

So, for the Feb. 1, 2008 Zappa's Grubby Chamber, let's try playing the early versions of various songs, and then the later iterations. So many to choose from... "Ain't Got No Heart," "Brown Shoes," "Cruising for Burgers," "King Kong..."

And whatever you think up!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Essential Frank – January 25, 2008

Running late this week, so without any real time to prepare, this week's show concept is... Essential Frank.

What's the single most definitive Zappa song? "Peaches?" "Valley Girl?" "Orrin Hatch On Skis?"

Well, that's just it – there isn't any one tune that really defines the Zappa experience. Even in two hours, I doubt that we could get Frank's core repertoire covered.

But we can try! I have my "ideas," but what are yours? Call 'em in, or e-mail the studio during the show as we set the controls for the crux of the biscuit!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Definitely A Case Of Moo-Aah (Updated) – January 18, 2008

Fucked up.

There's no other way to describe the state of the relationship 'twixt the Zappa Family Trust and the peeps right now. It's really depressing.

I say we need an immediate transfusion of Frank energy – and fast!

That's why this week's Zappa's Grubby Chamber will continue the blasphemous tirade undertaken last week, wherein we deploy yet more budget homage to Frank in the form of tunes off Where's My Waitress?, a brilliant disc created by our South Dakota correspondent and new best friend, Russ Stedman. (He was on the show last week. The subject of Suzy Quatro came up briefly.)

I doubt that I'll be able to resist playing the only non-cover tune on WMW?, a cayenne-flavored confection called "Frank," by the Rudy Schwartz Project. That thing rivals Godley & Creme's "Sandwiches of You" or Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Bullfrog" as an in-your-face paean (where'd you get that word?) to FZ's genius.

The Jan. 11 show was based on the concept that there's nothing better on the face of God's Great Earth than that Prince of Musics, bedroom tapes by the sequestered geniuses of our land. Well, them and Frank. And so will this show be too. Fact of the matter – it's made for you.

So strap in for another bout of merciless versioning, with the WMW? tracks interspersed (where'd you get that word?) with the official FZ versions. I may even be able to wrangle another phone interview with one of the participating musicians.

Update: The amazing Kevyn Dymond will be a telephone guest around 10:30 p.m. Pacific. he contributed some songs to WMW?, and we'll talk about them and play them and like them. and him.

As rough as things are in Zappaland at the moment, there's still the fact that a lot of people are spending their own teenage money and time not just to purchase, enjoy and write about Zappa music, but they're even making it on their own. And some nitwit in way Northern California is playing it on the radio.

So how bad is it, really? Moo-aah!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Where's My Waitress? – January 11, 2008

So, I got on the elevator at Jacoby's Storehouse yesterday only to encounter former Barking Dogma guitarist Kevyn Dymond. I drummed once for BD when they opened for BFD – that's Mike Keneally's Beer For Dolphins – at the old Jambalaya Club.

Kevyn handed me a CD titled Where's My Waitress?, above. It's a disc jam-packed with versions of FZ songs prepared by home tapers. These appear to be rugged-individualist/misfit-types who like to do solo musical projects in their smelly little secret black light bedrooms on Long Island.

And elsewhere. These songs look like they've been done by guys all over the country. Kevyn has a few on there, as does an interesting guy named Russ Stedman. Russ appears to have manufactured the compilation, so I e-mailed him and asked if I could play WMW? on the show, and he said "Go for it."

Note that this whole thing is quasi-legal at best... actually it's just done for the love of Frank music, which may or may not go unpunished. Says the liner notes, "All of the music in this collection was written by Frank Zappa [with one exception] and is no doubt controlled for all the world and space by the Zappa Family Trust..."

The exception is "Frank," by Joe Newman, which is quite charming. I'll start out the Jan. 11, 2008 show with that, then we'll proceed to a heavy-duty session of versioning, wherein I play the Frank version of the song and then the equivalent WMW? rendition.

I had actually planned to drill through a bunch of new (to me) material donated to the show by another listener, our friend and Brother In Frank, Matt Walden (Matt Chu to you). But there's so dang much of it, I think I need another week to assimilate.

So, it's Where's My Waitress? and beyond, for the Jan. 11, 2008 Zappa's Grubby Chamber. Phone in your comments to (707) 786-5486, or

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bluster & Bombast – January 3, 2008

The above portrait is by my friend Rick Dula, who I haven't spoken with in 20 years at least. I don't know that the drawing captures Frank's essence, but Rick really was a good artist. Probably still is.

The eyes are a little too pretty, and kind of remind me of a Keane painting. (I guess that's the ultimate insult for a serious artist. Sorry, Rick.) My first grade teacher used to drum it into us, "Don't bear down on the pencil." Ahem, Mr. Dula? In fairness, I think the drawing has become smeared over the ages as well, as Rick was anything but heavy-handed.

But Frank could be! Oh yes, when it comes to raging rock, Zappa music holds up with the most bombastic blustering brobdingnagian blasts ever recorded.

There's "Them Or Us," "Rat Tomago," "Easy Meat" and lots of stuff off of the various Guitar albums that we at Zappa's Grubby Chamber would be pleased as punch to club you over the head with, for your listening pleasure.

There's another reason why playing bombastic Frank tunes is The Right Thing To Do. As I write this Friday morning, there's a big storm a-comin' in – three, actually – and we're supposed to give weather updates throughout our shows. So, commensurate with the bluster inside, it'll take some smashing Zappa music to be heard above the din.

Bombast and bluster, on this week's ZGC.